Spurs lost Champions League final: Why I didn’t shed tears

Follow by Email
Facebook
Google+
http://www.sports247.my/v1/2019/06/spurs-lost-champions-league-final-didnt-shed-tears">
Twitter
Pinterest

FROM a schoolboy in the 1960s, I’ve fanatically supported Tottenham Hotspur and over the weekend when they lost their first-ever Champions League final in Madrid, rather unbelievably, I didn’t shed a tear.

I watched the “live” match with about 400 fans at The M Hotel at Anson Road at 3.00am (Singapore time), organised spectacularly by the Spurs Supporters Club (Singapore) and the ambience over four hours (from pre-kickoff to prize presentation) was simply overwhelming.

Seriously, I wasn’t embarrassed. No tears of disappointment but rather of tears of happiness as two English clubs showcased in Europe’s icon final and, rather sportingly, I must acknowledge that Liverpool erased the disappointment of last season’s Champions League final loss by claiming the trophy for the sixth time with a hard-earned victory.

Touching the heart, I must confess that it was a final that rarely touched the heights of the blockbuster semi-finals that made this an all-Premier League show piece, Spurs had some definite chances to win but were denied by Liverpool’s ‘Man-of-the-Match’ Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who saved brilliantly from Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen.

WORLD-CLASS GOALKEEPER

I have to acknowledge the bombastic difference a world-class goalkeeper makes. From last year’s disappointment was the giant presence of Alisson in goal as opposed to the hapless Lloris Karius, who gifted goals to Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in Kiev. Here, the £67m Brazilian was outstandingly like the “Rock of Gibraltar” with his safe handling and vital interventions when the Reds came under tremendous stress in the second half, which vividly belonged to Spurs.

Even Spurs fans will accept with dignity that Alisson, along with Virgil van Dijk, has given Liverpool the extraordinary dimension that pushed them so close to a first league title in 29 years and has now made them European champions once more.

Even for my “Egyptian Pharaoh” world-class idol, Mohamed Salah, in rival red-jersey, it swarmed my heart to see such a disconsolate figure when he was injured early in that loss to Real Madrid, who set Liverpool on their way with a penalty, under two extraordinary minutes, when Moussa Sissoko was contentiously punished for handball.

Mind you, you must know that Salah’s opener for Liverpool was the second fastest goal in a Champions League final (1:48), only behind Paolo Maldini (00:50) for AC Milan versus Liverpool in 2005.

And when Spurs tried and tried, huffed and puffed in many stages of this big match, their failure to capitalise was rightly punished when substitute Divock Origi ensured manager Jurgen Klopp won his first trophy as Liverpool manager by driving low and powerfully past Hugo Lloris with three minutes left.

HOLD HEADS HIGH

No regrets. No ill feelings. No tears anywhere. No blood at heart or mind.

I passionately feel for Mauricio Pochettino when he said: “To concede a penalty after 30 seconds that completely changed our plans and had a massive impact.”

I, too, can hold my head and heart high when I glance at the statistics that don’t lie, too. Liverpool (35.4 per cent) is the first side to win the Champions League final despite having less possession than the opposition since Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich in 2010.

Credit to excellent English-style honest sportsmanship, too. This was the first ever Champions League final without a single card shown!

I know my beloved Spurs, like wet-behind-the-ears first-time lads holding on to an awesome global stage, will be back, too. Manager Pochettino will stay at White Hart Lane and spur the club to new heights, forgetting that this was a night of regret, one but realising honestly that we failed to grasp the moment to take advantage of a Liverpool display short of their usual standards.

Yes, many questions will be asked by millions of Spurs fans from Chile to China, Malaysia to Mexico and Singapore to Spain: Was Harry Kane fully fit? Did Mauricio Pochettino make a mistake by including him and leaving out Lucas Moura, the Brazilian striker who fired them to Madrid with that hat-trick against Ajax in the semi-final second leg in Amsterdam?

On hindsight, I must admit that it was damn hard to make a definitive judgment on Kane because he did not receive great service. But I concede that he certainly looked short of match sharpness, as did Liverpool’s Firmino, who was also back after an injury absence.

The multiple shots from Spurs, especially after the first hour of the match, made me feel heart-warming as the white-shirted Londoners made Alisson work harder than Hugo Lloris had to. And I raise my hands and salute that we were not as clinical as substitute Origi was with his single opportunity, the chance that put the game beyond them.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO

I take my hats off to Argentinan Pochettino. He deserves massive kudos for taking Spurs to their first Champions League final but this is a body of work that must now be sustained by backing in the transfer market, an arena to which he has been a down-hearted stranger for so long.

I sympathise that the records will show that Pochettino has lost both of his major finals as Tottenham manager, also losing the League Cup final against Chelsea in 2015.

Please note that Pochettino has been masterful at getting the best from relatively meagre resources at White Hart Lane (Spurs’ home ground). The club did not even make a significant player signing this season, spending nothing on transfer fees. In response to injuries throughout his squad, Pochettino has given at least 1,500 minutes of playing time to 14 different outfield players, the most among the Premier League’s biggest six teams!

Likewise for his Liverpool counterpart Klopp, who distinctly knew one sub-plot to this Champions League final, played out in the sweltering heat of Madrid, would be his grim record of losing six successive finals. Mind you, he had lost three with Liverpool, including in this competition last season, and while no one can seriously doubt the German’s outstanding work, it was his legendary Anfield predecessor Bill Shankly who coined the phrase: “First is first and second is nowhere.”

Kudos again and again, preciously, for Klopp, the result is also the crowning achievement in his career. Already considered one of the best coaches of his generation, this whacky German has described his preferred playing style as “heavy metal football”, which combines hard “pressing” — or quickly chase down opponents around the pitch — with rapid, direct attacks.

KLOPP WALKS TALLEST

Hold your heads high, Klopp, you can walk tallest now and cast off that mantle and instead be known as the magical bearded-bespectacled manager who restored the rousing Reds to the pinnacle of European competition. He ranks as only the fourth Anfield manager to win the European Cup, after Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Rafael Benitez.

Back home in Germany, the Klopp family will be firing fireworks as he is only the fifth German manager to win the European Cup, after Dettmar Cramer, Jupp Heynckes, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Udo Lattek. He is only the second German to win the trophy with a non-German side (Heynckes with Real Madrid).

For my rivals Liverpool, I have to clearly put on record that I applaud the Reds and for so many of my ultra-passionate Reds fans who waited more than a decade for a major European trophy, they must now paint the town bloody right. Allow me to blow their trumpets that they have won their sixth European Cup – twice as many as any other English team (Manchester United, three).

From my Melbourne fanatical Reds-fan Nantha Kumar to his Singapore twin brothers Ashok Kumar and (the late) Selva Kumar, their red-blooded whisky celebrations must continue as they join their over-the-moon Anfield clan. I can imagine the dazzling double-decker-bus boosts in the heart of the English home-town, the ticker-tapes and pyrotechnics and, most significantly in Madrid, when they simply went wild when manager Klopp was tossed high into the air by his players in front of the jubilant thousands.

Wow, the prolonged nightmares are over. The Reds have rightly overcome the ghosts of the past and I know it will take him some time to come back down to earth after a dream-come-true triumph that Liverpool can now use as the perfect platform for further successes at home and in Europe.

UEFA SUPER CUP NOW

Fantastic hand-claps to Liverpool as they lifted the trophy that was taken from their grasp in Ukraine last season and now stand behind only Real Madrid and AC Milan as serial winners of this tournament, and now must get set for the Uefa Super Cup (traditional match between Champions League and Uefa Cup winners) against Chelsea in the first all-English club final on August 14 in Istanbul.

For the record, Liverpool ranks as the last English side to win the Super Cup, back in 2005. Four of the past five have been all-Spanish affairs – with Atletico beating Real Madrid in Tallinn in 2018.

I say with a big bold heart that Liverpool and Klopp are not going away. They will be back for another tilt at the Premier League next season and the Champions League is a mountain they have proved capable of climbing.

Likewise for my die-hard Spurs, it’s time to pick up from broken egos and emotions and buckle up for a new full season at their ultra-modern new stadium with a  capacity of 62,062, making it one of the largest stadiums in the Premier League and the largest club stadium in London.

I take distinct pride that it is designed to be a multi-purpose world-class stadium and features the world’s first dividing, retractable football pitch, which reveals a synthetic turf pitch underneath for NFL London Games, concerts and other events.  

Nothing wrong with first-time Cup-final-jitters as Spurs appeared in their first ever European Cup final, becoming the eighth English side to do so. I console myself that the past six first-time finalists have now lost (also Chelsea 2008, Arsenal 2006, Monaco 2004, Bayer Leverkusen 2002 and Valencia 2000).

But as I end, let me remind the Spurs’ big bosses that money really matters, big money, most times, decides bigger titles. My London club, rather mysteriously, invested the least in young iconic players, who can bring them to a new football future.

Mind you, English clubs are not paupers. I know Premier League sides share in multi-year broadcasting deals worth more than £9billion, higher than any other domestic league on the planet. This has ensured their revenues have kept pace with the biggest teams in Europe.

THE RICHEST FOOTBALL CLUBS

Six English teams, including Liverpool and Spurs, are among the world’s top 10 highest earning clubs. Still, by the standards of others, this year’s Champions League finalists are frugal. Look at the numbers: Barcelona spent €562m in player wages last season, according to KMPG Football Benchmark. This compares to just €297m spent by Liverpool and a measly €167m by Spurs!

Here’s a wonderful money-can-buy lesson for football fans: After being comfortably defeated 3-1 by Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final, Liverpool’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, which is controlled by US billionaire John W Henry, decided it required more investment to reach the top of the sport.

In January last year, the Reds signed Holland centre-back Virgil van Dijk, and at the start of this season, they added Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Both men were acquired for world record transfer fees for the respective playing positions. Note that Liverpool reportedly spent about £150m combined in transfer fees for the pair.

God bless the Reds! They were duly rewarded on Saturday. Tight-with-money Spurs pushed hard for an equalising goal, particularly in the second half, with greater possession of the ball and producing more shots on goal than their opponents.

But poignantly, Van Dijk produced numerous vital interceptions that earned him the official ‘Man-of-the-Match’ award, while Alisson made a series of saves to keep Liverpool ahead.

Final words form the two managers: “I will look stupid if I say that we dominated the game,” said the sporting Pochettino. “I believe that the final is about winning. It’s not about playing well. No one will remember that maybe we deserved a little bit more.”

Liverpool’s Klopp gentlemanly said: “I don’t want to explain how we won it. What is important is that we won it!”

For me, a very appreciate die-hard Spurs fan over half-century, from a primary schoolboy in the 1960s, I still won’t shed a sporting tear. – By SURESH NAIR

 

  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who repeats that he shares no tears of disappointment but rather of tears of happiness as two English clubs gentlemanly showcased, without even a yellow card, in Europe’s icon final in Madrid.
Please follow and like us:
0